Registering an interest

  10 April 2017

The numbers are in and much ink has already been spilt digesting and dissecting the results of the March new registration data. New plate change months are always given the microscope treatment, but this March we had the added complication of substantial changes to VED for a number of vehicles looming in April. The upshot being a ‘buy now or pay more later’ scenario for consumers, which had the potential to skew the registration data. 

In the end, March delivered another record month. The 562,337 registrations helped deliver a year-on-year 8.4 percent increase. The big winners were the fleet and business sectors, which saw uplifts of 12.6 and 11.9 percent respectively. In contrast, private registrations rose by a modest 4.4 percent, although this performance did reverse the recent decline in activity.

Also, petrol trumped diesel for market share in March, taking 52.5 percent and posting a healthy year-on-year 13.2 percent rise. Diesel managed only a modest 1.6 percent rise to record a 43.4 percent share. Electric and hybrid registrations might have only grabbed 4.1 percent but the sector’s 31 percent rise was impressive.

What does this tell us? The buoyant fleet and business market clearly played it right in respect to the VED changes and you can expect some seriously competitive deals to have been at play too. Economists might interpret the modest private registrations as buyer caution with respect to external economic factors: Brexit, interest rates, rising cost of living. Plus, you can’t discount the chance that some buyers, faced with steep VED rises for their chosen purchase, opted to buy used or nearly new. 

And what of the blip in diesel performance? Has the current, and growing, negative comment in media and political circle started to change buyer habits? If the diesel-baiting comments die down, there’s a good chance the sector could improve, but this does rely on stable pump prices and a Government capable resisting knee-jerk penalties come Budget time.

Certainly, the oft-talked about VED ‘pull forward’ effect was present in the March figures, which could lead to April’s performance grabbing fewer headlines. Don’t forget, there are fewer days in April plus there’s the Easter holiday to consider and the VED hysteria will be a distant memory. I’d expect to be keeping the champagne in the fridge for a while yet.

Iain Dooley

Editor, Agenda

Auto Retail Network

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